Long-time visitors to Garnet Hill Lodge relax by the fire in the main room. RoseAnn Fogarty knits while chatting about Kathy Silo’s Kindle reading.
While the flatlanders in Saratoga and Albany aren't seeing snowstorms this year, the woods and slopes of Johnsburg are ready and waiting for skiers to dig in their poles.
Garnet Hill Lodge is in great condition to host cross-country adventurers, said Ski Shop Director Jay DeJesus. With the help of their master groomer, Dale Monthony, the ski trails can open with only a few inches of snow cover and offer plenty of room to explore.
They regularly host local high schools' cross-country teams, and have had visits from schools as far away as Yale in this low-snow season that leaves the lodge as one of the few ski centers in the East with open trails.
DeJesus is working to expand Garnet Hill's relationship with ski teams regionally. The Johnsburg Central Nordic team had just wrapped up some time on the trails.
“You want to do everything you can to seed your future,” said DeJesus. He tapped a JCS Nordic team member on the shoulder and said, “This guy could be a future Olympian.”
Garnet Hill is lucky this year, partly because of its elevation, but DeJesus couldn't speak more glowingly of the lodge's groomer, who has 25 years of experience and long family history with the place.
At Garnet Hill Lodge, new owners Don Preuninger and Mindy Piper had a meeting with a group hoping to bring events for disabled veterans to the cross-country ski center.
Russ Myer, who coordinates the Capital Region Nordic Alliance, said engaging in outdoor sports should be a part of every disabled vet's recovery, and he's read studies that have encouraging results for those activities.
Their group is centered on Albany, and local state ski trails are bare right now, said Myer. With no snow for their winter excursions locally, a venue like Garnet Hill is exactly what they need.
The lack of snow in lower elevation can slow visits to snow retreats, said Preuninger.
“When there's no snow on the ground where they are, they don't catch the bug,” that sends them out skiing, he said.
Myer noted that when the winter season ends, the trails around Garnet Hill can become an option for summertime excursions for the disabled vet program. He was thinking of nature hikes in the Adirondack wilderness.
Marketing Gore Mt.
Gore Mountain Marketing Manager Emily Stanton said growing their warm-season attractions is an important strategy for keeping Gore awareness high year-round. Yoga, photography and mountain biking sessions keep traffic coming while their Harvest Fest event consistently draws 6,000 to 8,000 visitors to the thawed-out mountain.
Though mountain biking camps are offered, Gore's not looking at competitions there like sister mountain Whiteface, which are both operated by the Olympic Regional Development Authority. Stanton noted that downhill mountain biking on challenging terrain is a very narrow demographic, so working with a broad range of activities — especially family-friendly ones — to keep attendance up is important.
With snowfall down, encouraging awareness of conditions at Gore is a multi-pronged strategy that leverages new media.
“No matter what year it is, snowy season or not, convincing people that the quality of skiing is outstanding and snow cover is good is always a challenge,” said Stanton.
People have busy lives. When the greater capital region or metropolitan New York doesn't have snow, they may not stop and think about snow sports.
Connecting with those busy people means being where they are, like their smartphones and Facebook. Gore has a new mobile site, m.goremountain.com, to cater to the on-the-go browsers. They also respond frequently to posts on their Facebook page and update their main website daily.
Keeping info on the website fresh, fun-to-read and up-to-date is very important, said Stanton, a message that she carries along to Business Alliance meetings on Main Street.
Connecting her site with others, like the Saratoga and North Creek Railway site, is also important. The mountain's 6,364 Facebook friends are offered contest and notices about the mountain, and Stanton said this effort helps to develop relationships with skiers. Gore aims to be part of a family's culture and build long-lasting connections to the region.
“What's beautiful about skiing — it's something you stick with for a lifetime,” said Stanton.
New owners making Garnet Hill Lodge their own
Business is brisk, said Don Prueninger and Mindy Piper, especially for weekends.
The couple, who took over management of the lodge in December, said their guests and the community are treating them well.
The Lodge kitchen was closed for awhile, so people are coming up to try the food there after missing out earlier. They've also got year-over-year bookings from people who made reservations last year and are preparing to come back next.
Although he renamed the bar in the back corner Prueninger’s, the new owner is mostly working on background tasks, like bookkeeping and legal papers, while Piper leads the personalization effort.
Piper said she especially enjoys the stories shared by people when they visit. She moved historical photos all around the place so people can note them. It's a way for her to hear more about the lodge’s history.
“I’m getting a sense of what makes the lodge tick,” she said. “It has a heart and soul. The people who come here have a story that gives me a snapshot of what makes the place special.”
One big change is taking the dining area from the porch to the main room. The lodge was set up more cafeteria style, said Piper, and it didn't feel like going to dinner.
They’re also working to create more intimate areas for people to have conversations in.
Two women from the Albany area were sitting by the fireplace in the main room, RoseAnn Fogarty was knitting while Kathy Silo of Loudville read from her Kindle, and they struck up a conversation about literature.
Fogerty and Silo both have long histories with the Lodge. Silo skied the trails there with her husband before they were married, and Fogarty led ski trips there.
The community has been very supportive. They get ideas all week long for the Lodge from friends. With some of that input, Prueninger and Piper are planning to expand into healthy living and business retreat options. When the snow wasn’t falling, Judith Harper came up from SUNY Adirondack to lead nature hikes.
“We didn't have any barriers of acceptance,” said Preuninger.